Breaking down home town advantage in mixed martial arts

This weekend, the UFC will have its first event ever in China followed by a return to Montreal, Canada in the following week. With the UFC hosting more and more events internationally, fighters around the globe are increasingly given an opportunity to fight in their home country.

This weekend will be Tiequan Zhang’s chance to fulfill his dream of fighting in China as a UFC fighter. Furthermore, the following event in Montreal will see eight Canadians try to win in their home country. That got me thinking…Is there really an advantage of fighting at home?

There isn’t a distinct advantage built into the rules of MMA. Both fighters fight in the same cage with the same gloves. In some other sports, home teams are given an advantage within the rules. In hockey, home team gets the last line change between stoppages, a small face-off advantage, and gets to pick whether to shoot first or second in shootouts. In baseball, home team bats in the bottom of the inning.

Aside from the rules, what has to be considered is the psychological advantage. In MMA, those advantages can be fighting in front of supportive fans, familiar culture and environment, shorter travel and lenient judging. One can argue that on the other hand, fighting at home is more stressful because friends and family in the crowd adds pressure to win but I would say that is minimal because as a fighter, you should always feel the pressure to win. So there is an advantage, right?

Well, that depends how you look at it. Sometimes, it’s more about the match-up rather than where the fight takes place. Yes, Anderson Silva and Stephen Bonner, I’m talking about you. However, for the purpose of this article, let’s take a look at some historical data and see what insight that provides us. To ensure there is a decent level of data quality, we’ll look at locations with 5 or more events and we’ll disregard fights where it is hometown fighter versus his fellow countryman. Also, we’ll ignore the USA events as most of the UFC events happen in the USA and most of the fighters are American as well. Below are the records of the home town fighters against foreigners:

Brazil
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Event

Location

Wins

Loses

UFC 153

Rio

6

3

UFC 147

Minas Gerais

1

1

UFC 142

Rio

7

1

UFC 134

Rio

7

1

UFC Ultimate Brazil

Sao Paulo

2

TOTAL HOME RECORD: 23W – 6L, 79.3% Winning Percentage

United Kingdom
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Event

Location

Wins

Loses

UFC on Fuel TV

Nottingham

4

4

UFC 138

Birmingham

3

3

UFC 120

London

3

5

UFC 105

Manchester

6

2

UFC 95

London

3

UFC 89

Birmingham

3

3

UFC 85

London

2

UFC 80

Newcastle

UFC 75

London

1

2

UFC 70

Manchester

3

1

UFC 38

London

2

2

TOTAL HOME RECORD: 30W – 22L, 57.7% Winning Percentage

Japan
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Event

Location

Wins

Loses

No Contest

UFC 144

Saitama

3

4

UFC 29

Tokyo

4

UFC 25

Tokyo

2

3

UFC 23

Tokyo

2

3

UFC Ultimate Japan

Yokohama

1

1

1

TOTAL HOME RECORD: 6W – 14L, 4 NC, 30.0% Winning Percentage

Canada
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Event

Location

Wins

Loses

Draw

No Contest

UFC 152

Toronto

3

1

UFC 149

Calgary

3

2

2

UFC 140

Toronto

1

4

UFC 131

Vancouver

2

1

UFC 129

Toronto

5

3

UFC 124

Montreal

4

2

1

UFC 115

Vancouver

1

2

UFC 113

Montreal

1

6

UFC 97

Montreal

4

2

UFC 83

Montreal

3

3

TOTAL HOME RECORD: 27W – 26L – 1D, 2NC, 50.9% Winning Percentage

Conclusion

Well, if you are a Brazilian fighting at home, you either get favorable matchups or you just love fighting in front of the home crowd. For you English fighters, your records aren’t as good as the Brazilians at home but don’t worry, it’s still pretty good with almost 60% chance of winning. However, Japanese fighters seem to get the wrong end of the lucky stick as they are only sporting a 30% win percentage. With UFC 154 in Montreal just around the corner and 8 Canadians on the card, what performance can we expect from them? Well, history says they’ll probably do okay. Not great but okay. The winning percentage is almost the same as a coin toss.

So is there a major advantage? Probably not as much as we would think. It really depends on the psychology of the fighter. Yes, they’ll definitely have the crowd’s energy and support behind them but how they harness that aspect will determine if there is an advantage psychologically. At the end of the day, anything can happen in the cage and that is why MMA is so exciting. Good luck Tiequan Zhang and my fellow Canadians on your upcoming fights.  According to the stats, you’ll need it!

Follow @HankMMA on Twitter or email him directly at keyboardjitsu@gmail.com. Keep up with the latest news by following @MMASucka on Twitter and on Facebook.

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